Hippo Pearl Review

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Reviewed Jan 2011

Details: Hippo Boom alternative from Jaben’s in-house brand
MSRP: est. $43
Current Price: $28 from jaben.net
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 106 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 4’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Stock triple-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), shirt clip, and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (4/5) – Like the other Hippo earphones, the Pearl feels rather sturdy with its metal shells, rubbery cables, and well-relieved 3.5mm L-plug. Driver flex is a bit worse than with the Boom but not too bad
Isolation (3/5) – Fairly typical of sealed-back straight-barrel dynamics
Microphonics (3/5) – Can be quite annoying when worn cable-down; fine otherwise
Comfort (4.5/5) – The Pearl is smaller than the Boom and can be inserted more deeply without discomfort. The housings are lighter and rounded at the rear – very unobtrusive on the whole

Sound (6.4/10) – If the hippo Boom is the budget-oriented equivalent of the higher-end Hippo VB, the Pearl is the budget version of the Brainwavz M3. Its bass is softer and rounder than that of the Boom but equally impactful. It’s not the deepest or tightest but very pleasant on the whole – warm, full, rumbly, and engaging. The low end of the Pearl can creep up a bit on the midrange but generally isn’t as forward as that of the Boom. The overall balance is better with the Pearl and as a result and the midrange, despite being no more forward than that of the Boom, carries more emphasis. The mids are a bit thicker and not as clear as those of the Boom but sound more full-bodied as a result. The Pearl is unquestionably the warmer and smoother of the two earphones but it’s so much more than that – compared to dry and dark Boom, the Pearl sounds natural and organic – a sidestep from the signatures of the Boom, Shroom, and VB.

The high end retains the smoothness of the midrange, giving up the edginess of the Boom for a softer, more easy-going sound. The treble is still fairly lively but not nearly as harsh or aggressive. Detailing is surprisingly good and the timbre is quite natural for a budget earphone. The presentation, too, steps away from the confined feel of the Boom in favor of a more spacious sound. The Pearl has good presence across a larger sonic area and a fairly spherical presentation. Being slightly less dark than the Boom, it also seems to have more air, which does wonders for the overall experience. Interestingly, it is also quite a bit less efficient than Boom, requiring a half-dozen more volume notches from my Cowon J3, and doesn’t perform at its best at low output volumes.

Value (8.5/10) – Despite its modest price and austere appearance, the Hippo Pearl packs quite a sonic punch, beating out its siblings – the Boom and Shroom – in balance and musicality. The Pearl isn’t the most proficient earphone from a technical standpoint but it is surprisingly balanced, musical, and easy-going. As with the other Hippo earphones, microphonics can be a problem with cable-down wear but in all other aspects the Pearl is an extremely competent product, picking up a few extra points along the way for the diminutive size and comfortable fit. As a practical and pleasant all-rounder, the Pearl is a very impressive entry in its price category.

Pros: Solid build quality, comfortable fit, musical & well-balanced sound
Cons: Mild driver flex


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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